Derby fever hits Durban

2012-07-14 00:00

COMPETITIVE contact sport has reached a new level in KwaZulu-Natal with girl gangs, flying mouth guards and “trash tracks”. Local women have found a new way of “kicking ass while looking good”.

Before the thrilling roller derby film Whip It, not many South Africans had any idea that roller derby existed, but since 2010 Michelle Murray (29) and Cara Munroe (27) have joined up to create Durban’s first roller derby team, which is “growing crazily”.

But don’t be fooled, this full-frontal contact sport is not as simple as skating leisurely down the promenade. Instead, these femme fatales are a force to be reckoned with as they skate around a track in a race to overlap their opponents. Who knew roller skating could be so complex?

There are elaborate strategiesand rules to obey. When the whistle blows, the four “blockers” start skating. A soon as the second whistle blows the “jammer” takes off with the aim of overlapping her opponents to score points. Each blocker overlapped is worth a point and the jammer worth even more.

As Murray puts it, roller derby is a “sexy sport”, which men love to watch rather then play. With the women’s outrageous knee-highs and short skirts, who would have guessed? This exhibition sport is where alternative personalities come to the fore.

“Roller derby gives girls a channel to express themselves and reflect a part of their personalities,” said Murray, who is known on the track as “Kraken”, a mythological sea monster. “I have this move called ‘sex legs’ where I do this thing with my arms and legs which makes me look kind of like an octopus,” said Murray.

A name is the skater’s identity. Along with the pseudonym, the skater creates a signature move once announced on the track.

“The names are edgy and dangerous,” said Munroe, and are not only a way of reflecting a player’s personality, but also a way of warding off rival players. “You can’t call yourself Teddy Bear and be progressive and aggressive in the sport,” said Murray.

High thrills come with associated risks, and the hard physical aspect of the sport demands that safety gear and padding are not negotiable. They even have paramedics on the sidelines at competitions.

Says derby girl Alex Patrick: “It is such an awesome workout and you have so much fun doing it, and it is a great way to meet new people. I just cant wait to skate every day”.

This exhibition sport is not only technical, but also has many attractive aspects. The thrill of skating at high speed, landing a new trick and gliding is something that pulls in most passing skaters, said Munroe and Murray.

By day Munroe teaches drama and Murray studies, but by night Munroe moonlights as “Durban Poison” and Murray as “Kraken”. Durban is the perfect place for alternative sportsmen and -women, with Moses Mabhida stadium, the Promenade and the skating front as their playground.

Most Durbanites will agree with Munroe that “KZN is the best in most sports; we will be the best at this too”.

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